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JOHNNY COLLINS "The Best of the Early Years" Fellside FTSR1

Hark back to the 1970s. Among the independent labels recording folk artistes then was the sturdy Macclesfield outfit "Traditional Sound Recordings". They produced forty-six albums between 1970 and 1985, giving debuts to many who became fixtures on the scene - none more so than Johnny Collins who made three albums for them beginning in 1973.

Now we have a retrospective view of these albums courtesy of Fellside who acquired the rights of TSR's catalogue last year and - most commendably - have started a re-issue policy.

There are twenty-five tracks selected from "The Travellers Rest" (1973), "Johnny's Private Army" (1975), and "Free and Easy" (1982), featuring Collins on vocal and guitar with a host of backing musicians including Roger Wilson, John Tams, Ron Angel, Jim & Annie Mageean, to name but a few. Johnny Collins has always been one to gather musicians around him. This is a formidable "Private Army".

Reviewing the music is easy. I can simply repeat my comments of 1972 - "Clean, clear, vigorous singing is not so common that we can afford to miss this excellent example". From the opener "All Among the Barley", to the closing "Farewell Shanty", Johnny singers handsomely. Straightforward, untricky, strongly resonant voice, with a faintly residual Norfolk accent, he delivers with relish. There qualities still show today, they are what has made him one of the folk scene's most valuable assets. A true stalwart. This is a delightful souvenir of those early days - but not merely that - it stands up on its own merits. Full credit too for a top class job from Fellside in bringing the sound quality to present day levels.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 30 of The Living Tradition magazine.